The Smithsonian’s ID Troubles
|July 8, 2005||Posted by William Dembski under Intelligent Design|
Check out the following article in The Scientist:
… And Smithsonian has ID troubles
By Trevor Stokes
The Smithsonian Institution screened the film The Privileged Planet late last month, but it is feeling less than privileged after the controversy surrounding the showing. Jay W. Richards, one of the authors of the book on which the film is based, is vice president of the Center for Science & Culture at the Discovery Institute, a pro-intelligent design think tank. The film makes astronomy-based arguments for intelligent design, and the Smithsonian has drawn criticism from groups such as the American Geophysical Union for showing it.
Narrated by Hollywood actor John Rhys-Davies, the film’s main thesis is that Earth is the best place in the universe for making scientific discoveries because of its astronomical placement and its ability to support life. “It seems then that whatever the source of the Universe, it was intended that it contain observers who can discover,” says Guillermo Gonzalez, an astrobiologist and coauthor of the book upon which the film is based.
But according to Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, we are “supposed to be left with the image that God created the Earth so we could discover His hand.”
Near the end of the film, Paul Davies, a theoretical physicist at the Australian Center for Astrobiology and author of The Mind of God, says, “What a thought: that we can glimpse at the mind of God and figure out how God put the Universe together. There’s a hidden subtext in nature which can be exposed through this pursuit we call science.”
Creative Response Concepts, a public relations firm that represents clients ranging from Disney to the Christian Coalition in addition to the Discovery Institute, initially contacted the Smithsonian on February 18th on behalf of the film’s producers about a showing of the film. After an internal review, the Smithsonian agreed on April 6th to screen the film. Randall Kremer, director of public affairs at the Smithsonian, says the PR firm “followed all the ground rules to hold a private event.” However, conflict arose once the film’s contents were reviewed again. According to Kremer, one requirement is that an event “has to be consistent with the mission of the [Smithsonian]. We erred by not employing this [policy] on the first review of the film.”
“The scientific content for the most part is accurate,” Kremer says. “The problem we have is that the science is used to draw a philosophical conclusion.” Kremer emphasizes: “The private event was no way an indication that our science had changed.” Scott agrees: “We don’t have to fear that the Smithsonian Institution is weak on creationism.” The Smithsonian had a “sloppy procedure, and they got caught in the crossfire,” she says.
The film’s premiere isn’t the only conflict the Smithsonian is having over intelligent design. Richard von Sternberg, former editor of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington and a Smithsonian fellow, filed a complaint about job discrimination in October after the controversial publication of a pro-intelligent design paper during his tenure as editor. The circumstances of the complaint are unclear, as von Sternberg was unavailable for comment.
The von Sternberg case has received the attention of US Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), who plans to hold hearings on the matter. “Now they’ve [Smithsonian] cut him off from grants, cut him off from other jobs,” Souder said last month. “In the process of him filing a complaint about job discrimination, we’ve come up with lots of E-mails apparently that show clear religious bias.” Kremer says the Smithsonian can’t discuss pending complaints.